Collaborating toward stronger local economies: Lessons from the Boston Fed’s Working Cities Challenge

Keynote Talk Details:

Colleen Dawicki of the Boston Fed will lead a conversation with local and regional leaders who have engaged and aligned partners across sectors to ensure local economies get better, and more equitable, results. The panel will share lessons on what it takes to develop a shared purpose, lead collaboratively and adaptively, engage new stakeholders, shift systems, and create a culture of learning and continuous improvement so that more people can participate and thrive in their local economies.

Keynote Speaker Introductions:

Colleen Dawicki is the Deputy Director of the Working Cities Challenge, coordinating the competition and supporting cities across southern New England while leading internal learning for the Boston Fed’s Working Places team. In addition to supporting smaller cities through the Challenge, she co-leads Leaders for Equitable Local Economies (LELE), which supports leaders in four Massachusetts cities working to shift their civic infrastructures in ways that make their local economies more racially equitable.

Before joining the Boston Fed in late 2014, Colleen worked with smaller cities to provide urban policy research and technical assistance as UMass Dartmouth Urban Initiative director. Colleen is also a fellow with MassINC’s Gateway Cities Innovation Institute and a member of the School Committee in her small city home of New Bedford, MA. She holds a Master of Public Policy degree from UMass Dartmouth and a B.A. in public and private sector organizations from Brown University.


Portrait of Anne KandilisAnne S. Kandilis leads EDC 413WORKS/Springfield WORKS, a community-wide initiative with the Economic Development Council of Western MA to promote economic growth in low income communities.

Ms. Kandilis’ passion for workforce development and education grew from her board work with the Neighborhood Rebuild Plan after a 2011 tornado devastated her neighborhood. Before joining the EDC, she led Springfield’s Early Education Strategic Planning process and assisted the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation in the launch of a $14 million early education and care center, Educare Springfield, in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the city. Her work with Educare led to her commitment to implement a Two-Generation/Whole Family Approach to Careers model for workforce development to promote economic opportunity for families in the region.

Prior to her work in workforce development and education, Ms. Kandilis was a Senior Executive at a Fortune 100 Insurance Company in Corporate Strategy/Mergers & Acquisitions. During that period, she also led Federal Government Relations in Washington, DC. Previous professional accomplishments include a career as a Tax Partner with a “Big Four” Accounting/Consulting Practice in Boston.

Ms. Kandilis is a native of Springfield, attended Springfield Public Schools, a first generation college student, and resides in Springfield, MA. She graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and holds a Massachusetts Certified Public Accountant license.


Portrait of Ayana MelvanAyana Melvan is the Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships for Mission Programs at Mystic Aquarium. Ayana is responsible for cultivating strategic partnerships that will substantially grow Mission Programs reach, revenue, and impact with a strong focus on environmental justice and racial equity. Ayana Melvan came from the United Way of Rhode Island. Ayana has worked in the field of youth development and education for over 20 years in several capacities, including most recently heading up the Youth Development work at United Way, and leading the Rhode Island Afterschool Network, with a heavy focus on environmental justice with a racial equity lens. Ayana has led work with local and statewide initiatives including the Rhode Island Working Cities Challenge from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston on ending racism and helping the City of Cranston create more equitable opportunities for youth and families. She has also led the work on eliminating the school to prison pipeline in Rhode Island for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) youth with national and local entities. Ayana has worked as a partner with Mystic Aquarium for over a decade in Connecticut and Rhode Island to help bring conservation-focused STEM education opportunities to lower income and BIPOC youth in out-of-school time. In her spare time, Ayana enjoys hanging out with her family at the beach, pool side, or outdoors and loves living in Westerly, RI. She spends most of her free time with her husband Mark, father Dwight, and two beautiful and amazing children Phoenix and Kingston along with Percy and Pippin’ the furbabies of the house.